Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MET Opera To Broadcast Operas -- Including Upcoming World Premiere -- Live To Local Movie Theaters; PBS To Be Co-producer

"Coming soon to your multiplex in the mall: bel canto fireworks and bass-baritone rumbles, love duets and orchestral colors, divas, tenors and trills.

The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it would begin broadcasting live performances into movie theaters across the United States, Canada and Britain, rubbing shoulders with professional wrestling and rock concerts.

The broadcasts are part of a strategy by the Met’s new general manager, Peter Gelb, to widen the house’s appeal by branching out into new media. The house also said today that it was opening up its vast archive of historic radio broadcast performances for streaming and downloading.

“I think what I’m doing is exactly what the Met engaged me to do, which is build bridges to a broader public,” Mr. Gelb said. “The thrust of our plan is to make the Met more available. This is not about dumbing down the Met, it’s just making it accessible.”

The Met was able to move forward with the plan after reaching agreements with its unions over fees. Opera broadcasts have already dwindled because of the high costs to produce them, and provisions do not even exist for digital delivery, like Internet streaming and downloading.

Mr. Gelb said that the unions agreed, essentially, to end the arrangement of receiving high up-front fees and payments for later uses of a broadcast, and instead will permit unlimited exploitation by the Met of broadcasts in exchange for sharing future revenues.

“We are in a position of really controlling our content,” Mr. Gelb said. The next potential steps will be to offer performances on satellite, on-demand cable, DVD and CD. But he added that the potential for these new markets was unclear....

For now, the Met has arrangements with three companies that provide programming to movie theaters. They will transmit six performances, all on this year’s slate of regular Met Saturday afternoon broadcasts, starting on Dec. 30 with a shortened, translated version of “Die Zauberflote,” directed by Julie Taymor. The other broadcasts will be of “I Puritani,” starring Anna Netrebko; “The First Emperor” by Tan Dun, a new opera; “Yevgeny Onegin” with Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev; “The Barber of Seville”; and “Il Trittico.” “Barber” and “Trittico” are also new productions.

Mr. Gelb, who first revealed his hope to create such simulcasts in February, said they would be broadcast in high definition with “fantastic surround sound.” They will be shown in 100 to 200 theaters at first, he said, and then 200 to 300, with tickets costing around $18 in the United States. The performances will also be broadcast on PBS, which is the co-producer." ...

Daniel J. Wakin "Met to Broadcast Live Operas Into Movie Theaters" New York Times September 6, 2006

Russian Soprano Anna Netrebko and Italian Bass Baritone Simone Alberghini (I think) will be among the first MET Opera Stars to be broadcast world-wide on a pay-for-view basis.

In 2005, Anna Netrebko was awarded the Russian State Prize by President Putin – the country's highest award in the field of arts and literature.

Photo credit: Sandis Soapbox and With thanks.


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